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In Lieu of Flowers

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY :
by Daphne Mintz

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Norcross Community and Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3915

SHOWING : February 03, 2011 - February 13, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Piqued by the entrance of a mysterious woman at the funeral home where his Uncle Eddie lays in rest, James concludes that though Eddie is gone, his story is not yet complete. As James and Damon, Eddie’s son, explore who the woman could possibly be, they discover how strongly their own identities are tied to Eddie. .


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Tanya G Caldwell
James Robb Douglas
Lou Lydia B Gordon
Damon Kirk D. Henny
Eddie Nadir Mateen
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Tattered Heartstrings
by Dedalus
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
4.0
Grief. It rips at your heart like a child tearing the wings off a fly. It’s what’s left after an unfillable hole crushes your life. It’s the pain that reminds us that the love we lost was worth the loving.

In Daphne Mintz’ new play, “In Lieu of Flowers,” Damon and James are cousins coping with the death of the man who raised them both. They bicker and joke with a macho casualness that belies their very different griefs, their very different responses to who’s no longer in their life. And they can’t help but wonder about the mysterious white woman openly weeping at the funeral.

Lou has also lost her father. She has been left a flower shop that every day picks at the scab of her grief by reminding her of who is no longer behind the counter. A casual customer looking for the perfect bouquet to “get out of the doghouse” soon becomes a close friend and, perhaps, a bit more,

If I may digress a moment, I committed a cardinal sin at this production and arrived late (a combination of old-fart dithering getting the curtain time wrong and old-car meandering through the unfamiliar detours of Norcross). I missed the first ten minutes. For all I know, the opening of the play tied these two scenes, these two sets of characters together, making me the only audience member who had to discover that connection as the play progressed.

The irony is, this process of discovering the connections between the two plotlines was one of the greatest joys of this show. If, as I suspect, “all is revealed” at the beginning, I can only recommend that Ms. Mintz consider making the connection a slow reveal. For me, the “full story” was only apparent in the beautifully elegiac final scene in which the two stories finally intersect (at least for rude latecomers like me).

Grief is a topic that resonates strongly (often) when made the subject of a play. For every shallow “Conversations With My Wife,” there is a forceful and memorable “Rabbit Hole” or “To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday” or “Lantana” that start with grief and dissect what it does to relationships and families and lives. These latter plays treat grief and loss not as a shallow wallow in woe-is-me-ism, but as a starting point to reveal strengths and weaknesses in characters and relationships.

I really liked how “In Lieu of Flowers” used the device of two stories, seemingly unconnected, separated by time, by place, by character, and by race. I liked how the stories showed two disparate yet paradoxically similar stories of grief and recovery. I liked how the juxtaposition of the stories showed how grief can both cripple and embolden, engender violence and passion, endow numbness and sensitivity, often at the same time in the same person.

And I really liked how this cast (Robb Douglas and Kirk D. Henry as James and Damon and Lydia Bolen Gordon and Nadir Mateen as Lou and Eddie) creates living, breathing, sorrowing characters who surprise and attract, bicker and flirt, attack and embrace. I like how they ramble on about what’s not important and leave stubbornly unsaid things that really matter.

If the structure is a tad formal – alternate scenes take us back and forth between James and Damon’s dining room and Lou’s flower shop – I found the transitions credible, the refusal to provide time cues (yes the play does play with sequence) both slightly irritating and ultimately satisfying. I didn’t really like how the refrigerator in the flower shop was always empty, but I did like how the emptiness was occasionally justified by the dialogue. I liked how a bouquet is created in one story, delivered in the other, and explained many scenes later. And I really liked how the music selections, the soundscape of designer Bob Peterson, created the perfect mood and bridged the transitions with just the right touch of melancholy and whimsy.

Grief may be the dark side of love, the inevitable conclusion of all relationships. It is the hazard we all risk when we open ourselves to anyone who will make our heart complete. And it can be the engine that drives any number of remarkable theatrical experiences. “In Lieu of Flowers” is definitely such an experience.

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)

Note: This was my first trip to Lionheart (hence the late arrival), but, I daresay, if they continue to produce work of this quality, it will not be my last.
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Sister??!?!? by playgoer
I thought the phone call to Holland was to the mistress of Lou's father. He made a flower-buying trip to the Netherlands every year, and apparently didn't just spend his time smelling the tulips... Dedalus may have missed the early scene that showed the phone call, but its context wasn't apparent until many scenes later. And even then, at least two playgoers devised completely different contexts based on the evidence presented to the audience.

Sister??!?!?
Didn't she tell the operator... by Dedalus
... she was trying to reach her sister? I may have missed the funeral scene at the beginning, but it seemed fairly clear to me that he went to the Netherland because his other daughter was there ...

Anyone out there from Lionheart have a script that can clear this up?
I concede the point by Dedalus
I've heard from someone in the cast whp verifies that the woman in Holland is indeed the father's mistress, NOT a sister. In my defense, I'm told I'm not the only one who made this mistake.

Pardon me now, while I wipe this egg off my face ...

-- Brad
"Dad's dead" by playgoer
As I recall, "Dad's dead" was the line in the phone call to Holland, not "my Dad's dead" or "he's dead." That certainly sounds like talking to a sibling. In the context of it immediately following Lou's attendance at the viewing of Eddie's body, it also made it sound like Eddie was her father (although racially that didn't make sense). It certainly was confusing.
In Lieu of Drama
by playgoer
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
2.5
Lionheart Theatre Company's production of Daphne Mintz's "In Lieu of Flowers" is an ultimately unsatisfying evening of theatre that seems stretched and thin, even with a running time of less than two hours. A mystery is suggested in the promotional materials for the play, but it's obvious within the first few lines that the mysterious woman is the florist for a recently deceased man, so the discovery of this fact by the son and nephew of the deceased makes for a weak ending of the play.

The mystery, of course, isn't the point of the play. I'm not sure what the point truly is, though. "Family" is touted in the director's notes, but what I saw was infidelity treated with no emotional condemnation or approval. If we were supposed to feel something about the relationship between Lou, the florist, and Eddie, the eventually deceased man, I don't think it was my reaction of "oh, don't go in that trite direction."

There's a sketchiness about many elements of the show. James, the nephew, is supposed to be more interested in Eddie's machinery business than is Damon, the son. That's not something we should explicitly have to be told. Here, it's the only way we know. As another example, James fears that a box bequeathed to him contains ashes of a pet dog. Since no dog has factored into the proceedings at that point, it seems to come out of left field. Things don't quite ring true.

It doesn't help that the show is written as a number of short scenes with blackouts and scene changes between them that halt the flow of action. Fluid continuity comes only in the last couple of scenes, when Eddie (in the past) and and James (in the present) straighten up in front of assumed mirrors in the center of the stage, facing one another from the florist shop on stage right and the elegant dining room on stage left. This is followed by a scene at the park, taking place in front of the stage, with the ending showing Lou in the park and James and Damon in the dining room. The stagecraft works splendidly in these, the last few moments of the show. This is in marked contrast to the creaky start of the show, when a coffin is rolled onto a cramped spot on stage and then rolled off for the next scene.

Early scenes start with no dialogue, and these silent moments do not help the momentum of the show. Lydia Bolen Gordon does a splendid job with these moments (and with all her acting), but it doesn't help that when she finally makes a phone call she lets out a hugely misleading line by the author that makes sense only many scenes later. It's as if the author has violated our trust in the service of momentary sensationalism.

The dialogue is mostly realistic, but there are occasional heightened moments. Nadir Mateen, as Eddie, does an excellent job with these moments (as he does with every moment of his in the show), but Robb Douglas, as James, and especially Kirk D. Hinny, as Damon, can't make the more poetic dialogue sound natural. That draws unfortunate attention to the words in the play, rather than letting the words serve the play.

The set design, by Wayne Patufka and Tanya Caldwell, is quite attractive, and the costumes also work quite well. Visually, this is a lovely production, with nicely detailed set decorations in both the florist shop and the dining room. Vocally, there's a mismatch in the strong projection of Ms. Gordon and the more natural speaking voices of the men. Altogether, the production elements and acting outshine the writing of this original play. It's good to see new works come to light, but a little more light needs to shine on the writing and plot of "In Lieu of Flowers" to make it a worthy addition to the ranks of works deserving additional productions. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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